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Are you Failing at Job Search Follow up?

job search follow up It’s been 5 months since millions of college graduates walked in commencement ceremonies all across the country this past spring.  If you are one of those grads who haven’t landed a job yet, take heart.  Experts say the average length of a job search for a new grad is running around 6-9 months.  Don’t get too comfortable with that statistic though since, the other reality is that HR Executives in a Hayden Wilder survey, said that 85% of entry level candidates are just not prepared for the job search process.

So, although it is reasonable that it is taking you some time to land a job, you don’t want to delay the process because you are executing a bad job search.  It is true that your resume and job interview skills are the anchors in a successful job search.  However, there is another key component, often overlooked.  It is the job search follow up.  Job search follow up is not just about sending a thank you letter after the job interview.  Job search follow up is about keeping your word throughout the entire process. If you have graduated and you are job hunting and looking to start that perfect career, your job search follow up strategy has to be consistent, professional and timely.

If you are failing at job search follow up in these areas, take steps to improve while you are still in the 6-9 month, new grad hiring window.

Follow up on Referrals

If someone who wants to help you in your search gives you the name of a hiring manager or HR recruiter; follow up and make the connection. Make connection with this new person and establish your own relationship. Be sure to acknowledge who referred you. Reach out to them on a professional social networking site such as LinkedIn as well.

Follow up with Research

Many college career centers will give college seniors a list of companies that are hiring new graduates. New college graduates must follow up by doing the required research on the list of organizations and apply for positions of interest.  If these companies are interviewing on campus and you don’t follow up, you will definitely miss opportunities.

Follow up on “homework” assignments

Career coaches will often give job seekers “homework”. These are assignments that if  completed will help a candidate move to the next step. Whether this homework is to complete a career assessment, do an informational interview, draft a first resume or read an article completion; follow through is important.

Follow up with business cards

If you collect business cards at a public event be it job fair, a MeetUp or an open house at a local organization, try to follow up within 48 hours after the meeting.

Follow up after the Job Interview

Job interview follow up can be in the form of a phone call, voice mail, an email, even a written letter or card or connecting via social media. Regardless of which format you choose to use, keep your message positive and professional.

Follow up with Gratitude

Once you do land your first job and begin your career path, thank everyone who helped you to get to this point. Connect with your college career center or professors and let them know what you are doing. Thank the HR managers who may have referred you to the next level. Thank friends and family for their support and set up a schedule to keep in touch with these folks in six months or so. These people could be important again later on in your career and who knows, you might be able to give them a hand in their own professional journey.

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Professional References are Everywhere on Campus

professional references on campusWe know the importance of getting support from professionals who share positive words about our skills and competencies.

Find Professional References on Campus

Many college students, build great professional relationships with college administrators, coaches, program coordinators and faculty on their college campuses.  However, many students overlook  these people when they start to look for professional references as they search for jobs and internships.

If you are graduating or looking for internships, start thinking about  who you know on campus who might be willing to be a professional reference for you.

The ability to have professional references from your campus, where you have spent four or more years, is a good indicator of your ability to build relationships.

Tips to find professional references on campus

-Be nice. No college professional you meet is obligated to be a professional reference for you.

-Be professional. Whether you ask in person or by email, stay professional. This email message should be void of text messaging lingo.

-Be timely.  Chances are, you aren’t the only person asking for a professional reference letter. Give the person ample time to get a good letter completed for you. I have had students ask me on a Monday with a Thursday deadline. Although I always got it done for the student, a few times, I have had to say “No” because I just did not have the time.

Keep in mind that a classmate might ask you to write one for them too. This is something you should know how to do as well.  Read the 9 Key Elements of a Good Reference Letter.

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Plan your Interview Questions Before the Job Interview

ask interview questions“Should I ask questions in the job interview?” is probably one of the most asked questions by college students when they do mock interviews. The answer is – “YES” definitely YES!

Whether applying for internships, co-ops, entry level career opportunities or campus jobs, college students are expected to ask questions in the job interview.  Recruiters and employers not only expect the questions, but will be more impressed if you plan your interview questions ahead of time.

1. Asking questions in the job interview will show your interest in the opportunity and the organization.

2. Some questions you ask in the job interview will also show the interviewer that you did your research and know something about the company.

2. Questions qive you the chance to show off some of your ideas as well and make connections with the recruiter and the company.

3. Recruiters will see this as positive behavior which they hope you will replicate on the job.

It is a good idea to think about the questions you want to ask and write these questions down before you get to the job interview. If you have questions written down before the job interview, do not be afraid to open your notes and read your questions.

Here are some sample questions for college students can ask in a job interview?

1. What non-routine tasks are involved with this job?
2. When would like me to start working?
3. What is the next step in the hiring process?
4. When can I expect to be contacted about next steps?
5. What do you like most about working here?
6. May I see the work area?
7. What is the schedule for training?
8. How many people are in the department and will I work on project teams?
9. What are the priorities for the xxxx department?
10. What is the first project that will need my attention?
11. How may I contact you if I have more questions or is there someone else I should speak with?

Most college students have a lot of energy and like to share their opinions. The job interview is not the time to be shy – Speak up!

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Online Behavior can Kill your Future Career

online behaviorCompanies recruiting on college campuses are definitely evaluating online behavior of potential candidates on networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter and video sites like YouTube.  Currently, 48.5% of respondents who recruit on college campuses said that they are using more social networks to connect with potential candidates.  This is actually up significantly from 2010 when the percentage was almost 14%.

What career professionals are saying

At a recent careers conference in Philadelphia, student online behavior was a major topic of conversation among career center staff and corporate recruiters.  One recruiter shared that a negative online persona showed students to be “immature and unprofessional, at best, and does not encourage an employer to visit a college campus.

Students online behavior

I am sure you have heard this before, but it bears repeating — Despite the horror stories of employers pulling back their job offers, many college students continue to jeopardize their future career success, by posting inappropriate content on social networking sites. HBCU college students, like other college students, still think the online videos of friends or themselves in compromising situations are innocent, private expressions. Too many college students still think their online behavior is really without long term ramifications.

When a client tells me they are having difficulties landing a job, an internship or a promotion, one of the first things I do is check out their online behavior.  Here are some of the things I see that could create a negative impression.

  • complaints about work, while at work
  • pornography
  • cursing
  • poor grammar
  • no professional presence at all

While social networking has become an important part of our lives, I have to remind college students and graduates that online behavior can really kill a future career.  From US congressmen, to public relations professionals and professional athletes, it seems no one is immune from bad online behavior.

The nature of the internet leaves personal indiscretions available for everyone to see long after the act itself.

If you are guilty of creating a negative impression online, now is the time to fix it.

Data source: National Association of Colleges and Employers

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9 Key Elements of a Good Reference Letter

reference letterReference letters and recommendation letters are a major component of a successful job search.  Every job seeker knows that in addition to their own ability to sell job skills and qualifications, they also will need support from qualified people who are willing to support their candidacy.  To draft a good reference letter for a job seeker, these nine components must be included.

Write a good reference letter

  1. Stay positive, honest and personal.  Use personal stories or observations about your work experiences with the job seeker.  Of course objective facts are important, but they must be balanced with personal reflections about the candidate.
  2. Qualify yourself early in every reference letter you write.  Say what qualifies you to give such a reference and testament to the caliber employee this job seeker would be.  Be sure to write about when you met and how long you have known the job seeker.
  3. State the nature of relationship you have had with the job seeker.  Were you a boss, a mentor, a colleague or a peer? What was the chain of command? Did you report to them? Did they report to you? Were you on a project team together?  Many people make the mistake of thinking that they can only ask people who were senior to them for reference letters.
  4. State why the opportunity to support this job seeker excites you and say how you feel about being asked to write this reference letter.
  5. Identify which 2 or 3 specific behaviors and qualities which, in your opinion, are most meaningful to the employer.  Be sure to use key words and phrases that show the job seeker as someone who is always willing to go above and beyond, is reliable and dedicated who influences others positively, demonstrates exemplary behavior and achieves outstanding outcomes.
  6. Why would the job seeker be a good fit for the organization in question?  How could they bring value to the bottom line?  Here is your opportunity to write about specific job skills that would be of value to the company.  You could identify a past work experience with the job seeker that would be a specific example of the type of contribution the job seeker could make.
  7. Write about your willingness to work with the job seeker again.
  8. Share your availability for follow up.  Let the employer know how to contact you directly in order to follow up.
  9. When writing a reference letter, it is not the time to err on the side of brevity.  Be superfluous and be long winded. Be relevant.

I published this article back in 2008 when I owned BullsEyeResumes.  Also published it at Beyond.com.  The comments from readers over the years have added additional tips.

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8 Things To Do NOW Before You Study Abroad (Part 2)

study abroadAs you read this you may be back on campus ankle deep in the semester, or enrolled in a class or two considering your next step.  Whatever your status, now is the time to prepare for your study abroad experience.  Last month we explored 4 steps to get you started in the process and here, we’ll explore the next 4 steps.

Attend a Study Abroad Fair

Most campuses will be sprinkled with activity and organizational fairs of all kinds during the first weeks of the semester.  Attending the study abroad fair is the simplest thing you could do toward your quest to learn in another country; though, as simple as it is, probably less than 50% of students actually attend the fair.

The study abroad fair is a great way to get to know what your campus offers, who the study abroad staff members are, as well as mingle with other students who may be considering the same things as you.  Not only can you gather brochures and materials that outline your options, but you can also ask questions (about courses, country options, financing, etc.) in a pressure-free environment.

If your campus doesn’t hold a study abroad fair (or if you missed it), most have a staff-person/office dedicated to international education with whom you can make an appointment.  The office may also have alternatives available for you to consider (internships abroad, volunteering, etc.)  It is critical to establish connection with the office early on so that they can keep you in mind when opportunities, scholarships or otherwise, arise.

Study Abroad Checklist

After you’ve met with the study abroad staff on your campus and have done your homework, make a running check-list of what you’ll need to do – yourself – to go abroad.  For instance, do you need certain immunizations, a visa (not the credit card), will your health insurance cover you, etc.  The list you create is not meant to overwhelm you, rather, help you to be better prepared so that you don’t get left behind.

Paying for Study Abroad $$$$

Cost is usually the top reason that students do not study abroad.  Financing study abroad does not need to be prohibitive; many times the tuition you pay now can cover a portion (if not all) of your studies overseas.  Though, if you start early, you will find there are a ton of scholarships and grants for you to apply to (i.e. the Institute of International Education offers the Gilman Scholarship.) A full article on financing will be posted soon.

Believe You Can

Believe it or not, one of the most important things you can do to prepare yourself for successful study abroad experience begins with your mind.  If you are confident and believe that you can do it, chances are you will. Whether there are financial obstacles, family restrictions or fear of the unknown – the only way to begin to get past that is to make up your mind and believe that you can.  Your reality will follow.

J.Renay Loper, Speaker and Writer about Studying AbroadArticles by J.Renay Loper, global education professional writer and speaker based in New York City. You can connect with her on LinkedIn or send questions on studying abroad to us at thehbcucareercenter@yahoo.com and we will make sure Ms. Loper gets your questions.

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